New Demirjian facility gives program upper hand in recruiting

New Demirjian facility gives program upper hand in recruiting

URBANA – When Mike Small played golf for the University of Illinois, indoor practices were held in a cramped room in the basement of Huff Hall.

"We used their old handball court," said Small, who lettered from 1985 to '88 and played on a Big Ten championship team as a senior. "In the middle of winter it was probably 100 degrees down there next to the boiler room. And we'd see balls go for 10 feet, hit a net and drop."

Today, Illinois golf has an indoor home to call its own: the $5 million Demirjian Golf Practice Facility. And, as a certain commercial says, this changes everything.

"The whole atmosphere is going to change in Illinois golf, coming from what we had before," Small said.

What Illinois has now is a 16,000-square-foot facility equipped with virtually every necessity and nicety in the sport. Designed by RATIO Architects Inc., of Champaign and Indianapolis, Demirjian's look remains true to its surroundings. The first UI sports facility to be located south of St. Mary's Road, it bears the shape of the iconic round barns that still can be found on the UI South Farms.

"Nothing else has been built of this magnitude yet," Small said, adding that similar indoor golf structures at Purdue and Notre Dame are three-quarters the size of Demirjian.

Named for the Decatur family that provided the lead monetary gift for its construction, Demirjian is the home Illini golf never really has had.

Until its opening, Small issued equipment from the back of a truck. Team meetings were held in the parking lot of whichever course they used for practice.

"They'll be able to walk in here any time of year (and) work on their golf clubs, video(tape) their golf swings, practice any shot in golf any time of year, do some homework ... get back to practicing some more," Small said.

Demirjian's impact already is being felt in recruiting. Small has landed two of Golfweek's top 40 players in the Class of 2007: No. 27 Scott Langley of Ballwin, Mo., and No. 40 Christopher DeForest of Cottekill, N.Y. The UI coach said a major selling point in his recruiting pitches is Demirjian.

And it has given the UI coach confidence that the barriers all cold-weather schools face in this warm-weather sport can be hurdled at Illinois.

"This is something we needed to have to be competitive but also to reach our goals," he said. "It shows the commitment we have to make this program better."

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Golf, Sports
Categories (3):Illini Sports, Golf, Sports
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